A Black-owned company in Chicago just received $13.5 million in subsidies to buy and revamp several grocery stores on the city’s south and west sides.
The City Council’s Finance Committee agreed on the community grant on Monday, Nov. 14, according to the Chicago Sun Times. It allows Yellow Banana, a retail grocery platform, to restore six Save A Lot stores in desperate need of “change.” Some locations are described as severely damaged while others have left a “bad taste in the mouths of residents,” said West Side alderman Jason Ervin.
Developing in Underserved Communities
Yellow Banana already owns an operator of eight Save A Lot locations in the Chicagoland area. With the $13.5 million Community Development Grant, the company will be able to invest in significant upgrades to its existing Chicago stores, which are all located in underserved communities throughout the city’s south and west sides. They will also be able to re-open a location in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood that closed in 2020. The city’s grant, combined with other financing and funding from Yellow Banana, will bring approximately $26 million in investment into six locations, according to a press release.
The funding will be used to purchase the underlying real estate for six of the seven locations in Chicago. It will also be used to complete full internal and external remodels, including new flooring, lighting, HVAC, dairy and meat cases, interior and exterior painting, new décor and signage.
Who’s Behind Yellow Banana
Yellow Banana is owned by 127 Wall Holdings, LLC. 127 Wall Holdings was co-founded by Michael Nance, Ademola Adewale-Sadik and Walker Brumskine. The three Black entrepreneurs met while completing studies at Yale Law School; Adewale-Sadik and Brumskine also earned MBAs from Harvard Business School. They are joined by co-founder Joseph Canfield, who is white.
“We are exceedingly grateful to Mayor Lightfoot and the City of Chicago for this generous grant and their investment in the South and West Side neighborhoods of Chicago,” said Nance in a press release. “We know how critical access to high-quality food at affordable prices is in many of these neighborhoods—I myself having been raised in a community with many similarities—and we are honored to be able to serve them. By updating these stores both inside and out and continuing to source fresh, affordable food at prices working families can afford, we can deliver a dignified, first-rate shopping experience for local families. We are committed to the wider Chicago community and look forward to finding even more ways to better serve those who live here.”
Yellow Banana currently owns and operates 38 food stores in Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee, Jacksonville and Dallas The company’s goal is to deliver essential nutrition to working families at affordable prices, according to its website. Their stores tend to be in underserved communities.
While the grant has been issued, the city’s finance committee is debating if the stores should be rebranded or reopened under their previous name.
“The city is putting a significant investment out here, but at the same time, we want to make sure that people will actually utilize this,” said Ervin, chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus. “And that may be something that may hold people up from doing it. There will be some challenges just based on the name and based on what happened in the community in the past.”
Ervin believes renaming the store in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood will “bring a fresher perspective for the community and give them a sense of a restart.”
There may be some rebranding such as changing the image or view of the stores. Developers hope residents feel included in their decision-making, according to Nance, co-founder of 127 Wall Holdings LLC.
“We fully appreciate the reputational damage that Save A Lot has done in the city of Chicago by shutting down stores, such as the store that we seek to reopen at 79th and Halsted,” he explained. “We understand that it’s unacceptable to unilaterally make these kinds of decisions without including the community’s voices.”